St. Joseph, Louisiana (DailyHaze) – While many are aware of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the people of St. Joseph, Louisiana say they have faced a similar situation for possibly as long as ten years.
Pictures have been shared out to social media showing the dark brown sludgy water in sinks, bathtubs and washing machines. A St. Joseph resident, Garrett Boyte, first began sharing the atrocious pictures to social media. Boyte is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, a religious group that has been trying to give aid to the residents during this water crisis.
While the problem with St. Joseph’s water has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, residents claim this has been an issue for a number of years. They say the discoloration and smell has happened sporadically over the years and some claim it has been going on for as long as ten years! The city has been under a boil notice for almost four years. Since 2012 residents of St. Joseph has been through at least 20 boil notices. A boil notice means that residents are urged to boil their water before ingesting it.
The water is said to be discolored and smells bad. This has been forcing many in the area to do their laundry elsewhere to keep from staining their clothes. The water differs from Flint, as there have been no reports of high levels of lead, or any serious health concerns. Instead, St. Joseph is dealing with high levels of iron, which has been deemed not a health risk. This is part of a bigger problem around the country, where cities are left to drink water that looks completely disgusting, but is still deemed as safe to drink.
St. Joseph can relate to Flint in a few regards. The pipes are said to date back around 90 years. St. Joseph has a population of only 1,100 and most of the town is black. At least 1/3 of St. Joseph falls under the poverty line and the government appears to be in no hurry to correct the water situation. State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry claims that the water is technically safe to drink, but also said he would not personally drink it.
The water in St. Joseph is brown most likely due to the high amounts of iron. The chemical elements that are given a federal limit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to health risks are, arsenic, uranium and lead. The elements that do not pose a serious health risk, but do make water look, smell and taste bad are iron, manganese and sulfate. These chemical elements are not given a federal limit, since they do not pose a serious health risk. In 2013, St. Joseph’s water was found to have iron levels 32 times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends.
While the average human would have to consume an extremely large amount of this water to risk any serious health dangers, the people of St. Joseph cannot help but worry. Many have refused to drink the tap water, or use it to brush their teeth for quite sometime.
In all it will take around $8 million to fix the current problem. State legislators last year sat aside $6 million to replace St. Joseph’s pipes and pumps, but the money cannot be touched. St. Joseph Mayor Edward Brown has not turned in his audit for the 2015 fiscal year that ended June 30. Cities and towns have six months after the end of the fiscal year to turn in their paperwork. It is said Mayor Brown has a history of turning his paperwork in late and has now been deemed non-compliant. St. Joseph cannot touch any of the state money for the repairs until this paperwork is received.
Once Mayor Brown completes St. Joseph’s audit and selects contractors, $1.2 million of the $6 million can be accessed immediately. The rest will be given as needed. The final $2 million would most likely come from grants or loans. Mayor Brown has been dodging media inquires in regards to the hold up caused by his negligence. Now the people of St. Joseph are forced to live with their poor water conditions until Mayor Brown takes action.